Follow us on our Tokyo Trippin’ adventure starting here! 🙂
Shimo-kitazawa (下北沢), Tokyo
Slightly off the beaten track lies a small, humble township known as Shimo-kitazawa (下北沢). Unbeknownst to many, this gem, located in the Setagaya district, is fast becoming the next place to be. Independent fashion retailers, hole-in-the-wall coffee shops, thrift shops, live music bars – are among the attractions one can find here.
Head over to Shinjuku station (新宿駅) and take the local line/train – Odakyu Odawara Line – heading to Shimo-kitazawa (下北沢). Alternatively, one can also board a local train – Keio Inokashira Line – from Shibuya station (渋谷駅).
Upon stepping out of the station, one is completely brought to a different side of Tokyo. The sight of endless skyscrapers are replaced with quirky little streets, the uniformity and monotony of the city replaced by variety and colors, the suits and ties replaced by statements of individualism all over the township.
Shimo-kitazawa is what you wanted Harajuku to be. Shimo-kitazawa is that bastion of defense against the monotony of big city life. More importantly, Shimo-kitazawa is a place hidden away from the mass tour groups, sifting the typical tourist from the true traveler.
With our tummies rumbling, our first stop, is a ramen shop. Guess we just couldn’t get enough of ramen eh (blame the ramen-obsessed gNOMe 1)!
Stumbling upon this small little eatery, Chabuton just simply had this strong pull. And little did we know, Chabuton is actually the brainchild of the first Japanese ramen chef to ever receive a Michelin star. Now talking about good food! 😀
Chabuton’s Ramen (ちゃぶとん らあ麵) [¥ 730] [RM 26.00]
The trademark Chabuton ramen, while featuring a standard tonkotsu broth with chashu and menma (bamboo shoots found in ramen), is not your typical ramen. It was one of the really good ones we’ve had up to now. The richness of the broth is well-balanced, providing an extremely satisfying aftertaste.
Chicken & Perilla Gyoza (餃子) [¥ 300] [RM 10.70]
Any ramen shop worth its salt would have decent gyoza up on offer, and this place is not any different. Serving juicy and well-seasoned meat inside a skin of adequate thickness, having a good tare (dipping sauce) to complement the taste. Yums!
The poster on the left hand side of the door in the picture above talks about the Michelin Starred chef.
So little food? One may wonder. Of course! We are keeping space for the snacks we can find along the way! 😀
Not relying on any map or particularly, google maps, we have decided to just explore the place and see what’s in store for us.
Some soy ice-cream and donuts please? Ikkyu Donut is a gem in terms of street food. A tiny shop lot with an old-looking sign completes the look of a true street food gem. Having vaguely heard of it from a Time Out Tokyo write-up, the gNOMes figured this was worth trying.
[Left to Right : Donut [¥ 170] [RM 6.10]; Soy Ice-Cream [¥ 280] [RM 10.00]]
Donuts fried in what we’re pretty sure is sinful secret oil, this one packs quite a punch in terms of flavors. No sugar frosting or sprinkles, just pure pastry goodness. Soy Ice-Cream was also as good as it gets. Well-balanced creamy texture with the taste of the good kind of soy bean drink. Ideal for street snacking.
This, a small cozy little shop with no signage whatsoever, is actually a coffee place! This place is run buy a Japanese couple who would look at home in the New York hipster scene. Remaining true to their hipster roots, No photography is allowed inside, and since the place is so small and packed, we had our coffee to go.
Iced Latte [¥ 450] [RM 16.00]
Having overpriced coffee in a shop with no sign, majority of the patrons being rich, white people, while receiving at most lukewarm customer service. One would suspect that one has been transported out of Tokyo temporarily. It wasn’t one of our favorite places (or coffee), but we suppose that was all part of the whole experience.
A yakitori (やきとり) bar to go! Yay! 😀 All sticks are priced at ¥ 120 [RM 4.30] to ¥ 140 [RM 5.00] which makes it a good choice of finger food. It helped that the prices were pretty cheap as well, considering prices for yakitori at most Izakaya is a usually expensive affair.
To our delight, this was actually quite a good experience! The food itself was value for its money as well! Well-seasoned roasted chicken in teriyaki sauce… *drools*
After spending almost a full day there, we decided to head over to Shibuya for our dinner before heading home. A train ride takes roughly 15 minutes, we have decided to walk instead! The journey took us a good 45 minutes, and of course, by the time we reached Shibuya, our legs were all jelly and wobbly. 😛
Shibuya (渋谷), Tokyo
Wobbly legs + growling stomachs = time for dinner! 😀 We decided to head to Sukiya for rather cheap yet decent food.
Gyudon Set (牛丼) [¥ 580] [RM20.70]
A good bowl of instant beef rice is the staple diet of the budget-conscious. Thinly-sliced beef with fried shallots and brilliant sauce makes this a tasty and filling meal on a good day.
Beef Curry Rice (カレーライス) [¥ 630] [RM 22.50]
Good Japanese curry doesn’t necessarily need to come from specialty curry houses (more on that in a later post!), and this place provides a cheap alternative of rich and sweet apple-based curry. The thin beef slices once again being perfectly tender and satisfying.
L’Occitane Cafe (Shibuya Scramble Crossing)
Feeling extremely satisfied with our dinner, we walked aimlessly around Shibuya to get ourselves immersed in this metropolitan city. Bright lights and dazzling sights make for typical urban nights. Where else better to experience it than the scramble crossing at Shibuya?
We headed to L’Occitane cafe for our dessert fix, while hoping to get a glimpse of that famous crossing. A friend mentioned it to us that L’Occitane’s Creme Brulee is to die for. Well, there’s always space for some dessert, right?
L’Occitane Cafe, located right at the Shibuya crossing, is impossible to miss. Locals and tourists alike flock there – for their desserts and of course, a view of the Shibuya crossing/scramble.
But nevertheless, the gNOMes felt that this isn’t the best place to view the activities going on below, perhaps you might want to head over to Starbucks instead. But nevertheless, securing a good vantage point in Starbucks may proved to be a challenge too.
L’Occitane Provence Fruit Tea [¥ 870] [RM 31.00]
A typically aromatic cup of tea, with honey as a sweetener. The fruity flavors make this an enjoyable cup while chatting with friends, and of course, honey is always better than sugar!
L’Occitance Creme Brulee [¥ 820] [RM 29.20]
If you come to this cafe and only have one thing, make it this Creme Brulee. That’s how good it is. Every bite of this has the right amount of sweetness and milkiness in tandem, in part due to the perfectly caramelized sugar layer on top of it. Sweet strawberries form the perfect “icing on the cake”.